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Even though the Air Raid Siren has come back to Iron Maiden since the release of "The Chemical Wedding," he managed to find the time to put out one last solo effort in 2005. While the album is not as strong as the two works before it, it is a strong release that still rivals a lot of Maiden's more recent material.
Musically, you could describe this album as a cross between "Accident Of Birth" and "The Chemical Wedding." It is not bright as the former or as heavy as the latter, but it manages to combine some of the former's melodic touches and the latter's theatrical mysticism. "Mars Within" is a spacy opener that seems to expand on "Toltec 7 Arrival," "Navigate The Seas Of The Sun" and "River Of No Return" are both strong ballads with a neat Spanish guitar flavor, and "Power Of The Sun" is a Maidenesque number that reminds me of "The Road To Hell" in a way. In contrast, "Abduction" and Soul Intruders" are both more aggressive numbers, "Believel" is made memorable by a haunting atmosphere, and "Kill Devil Hill" and the title track appear to be channeling the drama of "The Book Of Thel." Hell, they even managed to squeeze some "Tattooed Millionaire" influence by means of "Devil On A Hog!"
The lyrics are also well written and cover a lot of topics in comparison to past efforts. Just a few of the themes that appear include space/sci-fi ("Mars Within," "Abduction"), flying ("Kill Devil Hill"), a smartass Satan ("Devil On A Hog"), and even a bit of Shakespeare ("Tyranny Of Souls").
Even if Bruce's other albums were technically solo records, they still managed to feel like group efforts thanks to the great line-ups that were behind him, particularly the Tribe of Gypsies led by guitarist/producer Roy Z. Unfortunately, Z himself is the only Gypsy that appears on this album and the final product ultimately seems to be less solid as a result. From what I understand, much of this album's writing consisted of Z sending guitar/bass riffs to Dickinson and the singer writing lyrics/vocal lines while he was on tour. While the process certainly resulted in some amazing songs, it would've been even cooler if Adrian Smith had showed up for a quick cameo...
Overall, I consider this to be Dickinson's third best solo album and I recommend it to fans both old and new. While it doesn't go as deep as the two albums before it, it is a little more accessible...
1) Excellent vocals and riffs
2) Great song variety and accessibility
3) Intriguing lyrics
1) What happened to the Tribe Of Gypsies?
2) Not as deep as some of Dickinson's other efforts
My Current Favorites:
"Abduction," "Soul Intruders," "Kill Devil Hill," "Navigate The Seas Of The Sun," and "Devil On A Hog"